New Music for the Inauguration

John Williams, who has been nominated for more Academy Awards than any other person as well as written an olympic theme has been tagged for providing new music for the inauguration of Barack Obama today, “Air and Simple Gifts,” a four and a half minute piece for classical quartet. Clarinetist Anthony McGill, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Itzhak Perlman and pianist Gabriela Montero comprise the illustrious group to perform the new piece. Mr Ma and Mr Perlman chose the ensemble.

The instrumentation is the same as Messiaen's “Quatuor Pour la Fin du Temps” (“Quartet for the End of Time”) but is similar to Copeland in style. “We wanted something that could reference America, the president-elect’s fondness for Copland, something that’s both uplifting and solemn, that traverses time but is also quintessentially American,” Mr. Ma said. Mr Williams reportedly created a hymn-like piece which will interpolate the ‘Simple Gifts’ melody from Copland’s 1944 ballet ‘Appalachian Spring’ in its mid-section.

Comments

Tara said…
It's amazing. I want a recording. It's American, upbeat, Copeland-esque but also Williams-esque at the same time. I want a recording. What an amazing gift for the new president.
Chip Michael said…
Thanks for the comment Tara.

Honestly, I was a bit disappointed. Williams use of the same hymn Copeland used in "Appalachian Spring" (The Gift to Be Simple - a Shaker melody) made the piece more of a variation of rather than something unique. There a number of wonderful hymns that would have worked well still incorporating the Copeland like harmonies to re-create the "American" sound.

I did find it a lovely piece, but feel that Williams could have done something so much more.

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